April 2013; four of us had the ergs on the paved road by the boat racks between six and seven in the morning. As always, it was cold. The town around us was waking up. This interval workout was in four parts. It’s always an individual battle; between yourself and your soul.
I had said to a high school cross-country teammate once; sometimes about three-quarters of the way through a race: I sometimes trick myself, desperate to quit, that I am there in the clouds with Saint Peter about to decide where I spend eternity. Every man wishes his struggle was that important, and so every man who fights to empty every ounce of his strength is coming up with reasons to justify the need for victory. How do you win if your excuses are actually good? Never mind victory, when there’s no need for it. If your survival instincts don’t kick in, do you have a good enough reason for why they should? If Hell does not await the loser, what does?
There’s a recurring anticipation-of-reward after the workout; after the sweat has dried off and my wet feet step out of the shower, hungry, my mind still grasping the images that came to me in the exhaustion and dehydration. All of the work that gets done after that is just a product of the work that had been done in the morning; running on the track or through the woods, lifting the bar, moving the oar, or pulling myself up off the ground.
Hours after coming down from the high are spent dealing with problems; emotional, mental, and in the realm of ideas. I stood for dozens of hours in a room with a long flat table etching shapes onto flat boards. I could imagine that this was a kind of symbiosis. I worked to become stronger in the mornings so that I would do my best to manifest that energy in images and words in the evening. Those images would stay with me through my sleep and into the morning. The ice and cold crept into my perception of the present, the past, and the whole imagination.
I littered my wall with quotes of men who thought they fought against demons. I listened to musical dramatizations of stories of people enraged by war, famine and oppression. There will always be a market for a bourgeois man to purchase his own personalized form of struggle for whichever cause suits his tastes.
Fighting against exhaustion was a solitary exercise. I made believe (I still make believe) that I can be like that monk that lit himself on fire and stayed completely still. That “now, and in the hour of our death” is used by the sage to push through the end to the achievement of Heaven. That the real battle is for the soul, which I learned from Evola.
After an abundance of comfort, coupled with occasional illness, I didn’t lose all aspects of this former routine. But I did get mentally weaker. I stopped taking these other worlds so seriously. I learned what it’s like for the desire for entertainment to crowd out self-overbecoming. When you get most of what you want, you stop learning how to struggle against yourself. Now that I have my freedom, and I feel truly relaxed for the first time since I was a child, I have to choose to turn back. I have to realize, almost like a poor man who has gotten his hands on wealth for the first time, that this freedom is like those black boards into which I etched so many lines. It is there to be devoured.